Wellington’s progressive New Dance Group (1945-47) is remembered in reconstructed dance and a generous quantity of archival performance footage in this charming doco by Shirley Horrocks.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2009
Dance of the Instant captures, through interviews, reconstructed dance and a generous quantity of archival performance footage, a significant moment in New Zealand's dance history. Based on research by former Limbs dancer and choreographer Marianne Shulz, the film also provides a fascinating glimpse of the avid pursuit of progressive culture in Wellington immediately after World War II. The New Dance group – under the directorship of Philip Smithells, a visionary physical educator – was inspired by the modern dance of Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey. The remarkable Rona Bailey had taken classes with both of them, and she, along with Edith Sipos and Olive Smithells, spearheaded the group. Eschewing ballet shoes and wearing tunics, not tutus, they were committed to a theatre of movement that reflected contemporary reality, and danced to the music of the great 20th-century composers. The dancers were students at Wellington Teachers College and seven of them recall the challenges and the excitement of participation with lingering pleasure. — BG